The EU is more than a peace project

, by Jan Seifert

The EU is more than a peace project

Sometimes we forget what many people in the western Balkans were going through during the 1990s. But for many of us in JEF “war” is something very distant. It is words and pictures in our history books.

War is also movies, entertainment - or at least popular pictures for the news on TV. This is certainly a positive novelty. Unlike our grandparents many have never heard the bombs dropping in our neighbourhoods and we have not lost parts of our families in battlefields - war has become television-fiction.

All this is quite a change towards the decades and centuries before 1945. Those were the days, when we did not only kill ourselves, but also inflicted our wary expansion on the rest of the globe.

I still wonder why, but for some reason circumstances changed and progressive political entrepreneurs began to build up what is now known as the European Union.

Political integration of long-lasting arch enemies turned into the world’s most successful peace project. The federalist movement has played a great part in making “perpetual European peace” a lasting reality. Today, peace in Europe is mostly seen as a given. The good thing about this “given” is that playing with national fears between European people will only ridicule its protagonists. The bad thing is that also “givens” might be questioned if circumstances changed in the future.

Both concerns give our role a new meaning. On the one hand we have to ensure that our liberal democracies are not only embedded into a peaceful environment but also maintained through a social-economic model that ensures a respectable place for everyone. On the other hand we have to recognise that global terrorism as well as pandemics such as the avian flue gives war and peace new meanings. Still, I think it is time to recognise that the European federalists’ cause is no longer exhausted by enlarging our federal peace but by defining our role in the process of globalisation. Globalisation has indeed a political sphere and this is where a debate about Europe’s responsibilities goes hand in hand with the global promotion of federal values.

Way through the 1990s globalisation meant over flooding the rest of the non-affluent world with our customs, values and products. It also meant massive European take-overs in Asia and elsewhere. Globalisation was something that offered huge opportunities to invest and earn good money. Today it feels like times have changed. With a huge Asian steel maker trying to buy himself into the European market, with more and more companies moving east and laying off friends and family members, now the whole consequences of economic globalisation seem to touch us directly. At the same time it took us until the aftermath of 9/11 or even until London’s summer of 2005 to grasp the scope of the new threats to our peace. “We now have to defend our security in the Hindu Kush” as a German minister of defence put it.

Two hundred years ago Immanuel Kant had easily pointed out federalism as the way forward towards a perpetual peace. Still unrivalled there is no reason to deny this goal for Europe, but let us widen the scope. Federal European integration remains the basis for any kind of a European project. Still, we are not alone on this planet. There is a global role and responsibility for our continent. We can take it and shape our fate in globalisation - or we can soon find our continent as a tourist attraction like the rich and proud city-state of Venice.

Illustration :

Portrait d’Immanuel Kant (Sources : wikimedia).

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